Retrospective Review #8: The Sign Of Three


Written by Prof. Jenn

As a reminder:  I am writing these as RETROSPECTIVE reviews, so I will be discussing reveals, revolutions of cliffhangers, ends of plots, etc. If you are reading these reviews without having seen the eps, a) what is wrong with you?? Go watch them now! and b) these reviews are not for you till you’ve seen them.


Ah, the Wedding Episode. What can one say about it which hasn’t already been said?

According to DVD documentary Sherlock Uncovered: The Women, the premise of this episode (beyond the novel that is its near-namesake) is the chortle-inducing idea that, of course, Sherlock Holmes would have to have been Dr. Watson’s best man. What would that best man speech have been like?

Before we get there, though, we open with a lovely build-up of a sequence of which the climax is Sherlock freaking out about writing that very speech. We get a lot of the wonderful rapport between Donovan and Lestrade (though I was left lacking, again, as far as the consequences of her actions from Series Two on her job today. There’s certainly no marked change like there is in Anderson, but also no… well, no anything. For this character, it’s as though it never happened. Which strikes me as odd because she was so anti-Sherlock in Series One and Two), and we see as Lestrade rushes to Sherlock’s aid, how much he cares for him, potentially putting his career on the line for him.

This idea of sentimentality as a virtue is a running theme throughout this hectic, choppy episode: the conclusion of each problem is care. Care for one’s fellow humans is paramount through all the varying shenanigans in this mad rush toward John and Mary’s wedding. It ends in an almost melodramatic way, as Mrs. Hudson’s early line, “Who leaves a wedding early?” is echoed in Sherlock’s exit, the wedding song he composed for his best friend blending into the theme music.

John Sherlock

As far as the episode’s structure, writing-wise: this one is nearly all told in flashbacks and the vast complex that is Sherlock’s mind palace. As such, it does jump around quite a bit: sometimes to good effect (the peals of laughter universally at the prospect of Sherlock’s speech), sometimes to confusion or ridiculousness (sorry, but the way too far extended speech as Sherlock gets lost in his deduction is just too much).

There are plenty of references to The Sign of Four, though, as well as nods to other works from the original canon:

  • Major Sholto appears here, though completely different than in the book
  • A dwarf shooting a blowpipe at them is a climactic bit of the novel, though it’s merely a reference to an earlier case
  • “Oscillation on the pavement usually means an affaire de coeur” is from canon (“A Case of Identity”)
  • Hey everybody: Sherlock is finally wearing the mouse-colored dressing gown!
  • The decathlete and the mysterious matchbox is also a brief nod to an unwritten case in the canon. In the story, it’s a duelist though.
  • When Sherlock declares to John, “I cannot congratulate you” re: his marriage, it’s nearly verbatim from the end of Sign of Four.
  • Catching the murderer (also named Jonathan Small) by luring him near and handcuffing him to some luggage actually happens to Jefferson Hope (the cabbie in both Sherlock and canon) in A Study in Scarlet.
  • It’s not a Sherlockian reference but stellar US series Lie To Me also has a very good episode which features a wedding photographer as a murderer. In fact, the premises are eerily similar…


CLOSING THOUGHT: Drunk Sherlock is the best thing ever. That is all.

EASTER EGG: You noticed the cloud that passed over Mary’s face as one of the telegrams was read, yes? Yeah, we all did, and so did John. The reason? That particular greeting to her specifically was signed “Cam.” Or: CAM. Translation: Charles Augustus Magnussen.

RATING: 3 carefully measured milliliters of booze out of 5

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